Michigan reportedly has more juvenile lifers rotting away prison than in any other state in the nation. Unfortunately, a recent court ruling has resulted in around 180 inmates, who were sentenced when they were age 17-years or younger, that are destined to spend the rest of their lives behind bars for a crime that was committed prior to adulthood.

In an effort to combat this injustice, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit in Detroit suggesting that it is unconstitutional to lock away offenders under the age of 17 for life. The lawsuit demands that juvenile prisoners receive a parole hearing upon turning 21, and then again in five-year increments.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled several years ago that underage criminals convicted of murder should be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole – making every offender that falls into this category ineligible for an early release.

Of course, the opinions are split on this issue. On one hand, the current policy prevents violent offenders from returning to the streets. But on the other, a point made by Wayne State University psychiatrist Dr. Gerald Sheiner, it is a system created to bury the problem – not find a solution.

“You’ve taken people off the street and put them in prisons but you haven’t done anything to help them or to figure out why they are there in the first place,” Sheiner told CBS Detroit. “When you are done punishing them you put them back on the street and they are either back where they started from or sometimes they are behind where they started from because the experience in prison can be traumatic.”

Do you think teenage murderers should be given a chance at parole?

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